Editorial: Back to the Philippines


America is dusting off a military alliance with the Philippines that languished in the back of the closet for decades. You can practically hear them at the Pentagon trying it on for size: Hey, how’d we ever forget about this great thing?

A glance at a map of Asia, and recent headlines, shows why the U.S.-Philippines partnership is in style again: The archipelago nation borders the South China Sea. That’s where China is in the midst of an audacious power grab that must be challenged before it’s a fait accompli, or escalates into a military confrontation.

Dotting the middle of the South China Sea is a series of rocks, reefs and islets known as the Spratly Islands. China is using sand dredgers there to create artificial islands in order to boost its territorial claims on nearly all of the South China Sea. Three of those man-made islands now have Chinese military airfields, at least two of which are complete. The area is patrolled by the Chinese navy, which tries to shoo away any ship or plane that encroaches. The Chinese gambit is clever, but it’s a violation of U.N. convention: You cannot manufacture sovereign territory in international waters.